The WTA merry-go-round continues, as fans wonder from one week to the next how the higher seeds will play – and who might break through and have a great week.
In Toronto this week, it was Sloane Stephens. In her third tournament back after nearly a year away, the American defeated Petra Kvitova and No. 1 Karolina Pliskova. Stephens ran out of legs against the indefatigable Caroline Wozniacki in the semifinal on Saturday. But it was a hugely encouraging effort.
On the “highly-anticipated” side, Maria Sharapova is scheduled to return this week. After a three-month absence, she injured her forearm in her first match in Stanford. And then she withdrew from the Rogers Cup this week.
(Update: Sharapova arrived Friday, and pulled out Saturday night).
Victoria Azarenka was to play in Cincinnati after missing Stanford. And again, she was forced to withdraw because of a “family matter” – chronicled here earlier this week.
Some shaky work in Toronto
Ostapenko could use a run. She went down in a first-round marathon in Toronto against qualifier Varvara Lepchenko. The Latvian had won the first set 6-1. She’ll be keen to redeem. And as Ostapenko has already shown, the spotlight doesn’t bother her a bit.
As with the men, many of the top women also didn’t show their best in Toronto. But it’s been more of a pattern with the women this year.
No. 1 Pliskova had a bit of a shaky hard-court debut. But she still got to the quarter-finals. Pliskova was edged out by Wozniacki. Garbiñe Muguruza failed to keep her cool against Elina Svitolina in the quarter-finals Saturday, after sleeping on a one-set lead after rain cancelled play the previous night.
Venus Williams got through her first two rounds. But she didn’t look particularly sprightly in the process. Svitolina crushed her in the third round. And Kristina Mladenovic had another bad week at the office.
The only player who truly looked in form through the week in Toronto was Simona Halep. The Romanian was the defending Rogers Cup champion, although it was played in Montreal last year. But in the semifinal against Svitolina Saturday night, she just disappeared.
Potential round of 16s
 Karolina Pliskova vs.  Kristina Mladenovic
 Caroline Wozniacki vs.  Venus Williams
 Garbiñe Muguruza vs.  Madison Keys
 Svetlana Kuznetsova vs.  Jelena Ostapenko
 Elina Svitolina vs.  Agnieszka Radwanska
 Angelique Kerber vs.  Petra Kvitova
 Johanna Konta vs.  Dominika Cibulkova
 Simona Halep vs.  Anastasija Sevastova
It is a super lineup, if everyone can get there. Muguruza vs. Keys (who pulled out of Toronto this week) is a blockbuster-type match if all goes according to plan. And that’s just one. Really, there’s not a dud in the bunch.
First-round matches to watch
* Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) vs. Daria Gavrilova (AUS) (The way Mladenovic has been playing, that’s an upset in the making)
* Madison Keys (USA) vs. Coco Vandeweghe (USA) (The final at the Premier event in Stanford two weeks ago is a first-rounder in Cincinnati)
Lucie Safarova (CZE) vs. [WC] Sloane Stephens (USA) (both looked on form in Toronto)